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Challenging Iran's Leaders at Their Own Game

by JAMSHEED K. CHOKSY

31 Mar 2010 17:2529 Comments
obama_iran_080604_mn.jpgThe U.S. needs to act like a diplomatic superpower too.

[ opinion ] Though the threat of more economic sanctions have eased for now and the threat of military strikes has faded since the passing of the Bush administration and its belligerent rhetoric, Washington's power brokers appear to have given up on engaging Iran diplomatically, taking a tried-that/didn't-work approach. Offers of dialogue are unconvincing. The Obama administration seems to have dug in its heels, demanding that Tehran cave, rather than seeking a mutually agreeable solution.

In the meantime, Iran appears to progress steadily toward nuclear weapons breakout capability. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates Iran possesses sufficient low-enriched uranium (LEU), over two metric tons, for purification into a single weapons-grade warhead of 20-25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium.

Iranian leaders have begun comparing their program to Japan's, which is capable of producing nuclear weapons rapidly. Japan stopped once it attained breakout capability; as it feels threatened by the outside world, Iran may not. So the nuclear impasse continues, with both sides trading barbs and prospects for improvement in bilateral relations further corroding.

Consequently, the United States increasingly looks to containment and mitigation as the means for dealing with Iran, replacing attempts at communication and prevention. American officials from President Obama down have proposed missile shields for the Middle East and Europe. For the United States, it seems, Iran has superseded the Soviet Union as the new evil empire. The politicians in Tehran and Qom have not failed to recognize this elevation in international status brought on by their actions.

Granted, the Obama administration's hopes of swift dialogue with Tehran have been dashed by mullahs who fear regime change. Yet the tacit dismissal of sustained diplomacy on the grounds that Iran's government is not open to it, cannot make decisions, or is not trustworthy has proved counterproductive. Few viable options are left for the United States.

In the immediate aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election and during the subsequent internal challenges to the legitimacy of the theocratic system, Iran's government did appear incapable of reaching agreement with the West on nuclear issues. However, Tehran's autocrats have quashed many forms of public dissent and are in control again -- at least for now.

Opportunities to resolve the standoff through negotiations do exist. In part due to Russian and Chinese diplomatic efforts, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's MIT-trained former representative to the IAEA and current chief of nuclear programs, declared in mid-March that his country was "ready to deliver the total amount of fuel in one go, on condition that the exchange take place inside Iran and simultaneously. We are ready to deliver 1,200 kilograms and to receive 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium." Salehi's remarks are particularly notable given Iran's previous reluctance to exchange so much of its LEU stockpile in a single transaction, as initially proposed by the IAEA and endorsed by the P5+1 last October.

Even with this declaration, the sticking points of timing and location remain. Iran, worried that the West will not send enriched uranium once the LEU has left its borders, wants a simultaneous exchange. The United States has opposed any exchange within Iran, fearing the regime may hold on to the LEU after receiving the 20 percent enriched fuel rods and plate. Iran's qualms are unrealistic as the United States and its allies know the world is watching and the U.N. is exercising oversight. A breach of contract on the other side would provide ample cause for the United States to take unilateral punitive measures and cost Iran the stature it is gaining in the Third World. Indeed, none of the parties involved wishes to be viewed as pirates.

It is not unexpected that an American administration distracted by other matters at home and abroad would fail to respond to Iran's latest attempt to reach a deal. Yet this failure also underscores the narrow understanding of the diplomatic process that continues to characterize the U.S. government. Yes, Iran's offer does not completely meet American demands. But diplomacy is a progressive process, not an all-or-nothing strategy. For engagement to be successful, it has to be more than a series of nonstarters based on inflexible positions. It's neither about accepting or rejecting a particular proposal nor waiting out the other side, but about keeping all eyes on the prize even as time runs out. And, in this case, there are two potential rewards.

The focus here should not be on victories over terms and conditions. The crucial objectives are to build trust between the two nations and to ensure that Iran does not assemble nuclear weapons. Realization of the first objective can go far in making the second one possible. The United States and its allies in the P5+1 have little to lose by responding to Iran's latest offer, telling Tehran to set a firm date for nuclear fuel exchange via the IAEA. Such a gesture would demonstrate to Russia and China, whose support is needed against Iran in the U.N. Security Council, that America is heeding their concerns and appreciates their assistance. In other words, the United States would be generating shared stakes for those two nations in the success of the process, as well.

Iran has been claiming in recent months that it wants to reach a deal with the West, that it seeks nuclear cooperation rather than confrontation. Here is yet another opportunity for the Obama administration to use diplomacy to America's advantage -- either Iran follows through on its offer or is shown to be talking just to stall. If a successful fuel exchange transpires, it could prove to be a major step forward in bilateral relations. If it fails because of intransigence in Tehran, the rest of the world will be less sympathetic toward and trusting of Iran's leaders. And the United States will be seen as having sought, yet again, a peaceful resolution. Either outcome would benefit U.S. interests, while demonstrating a greater understanding of the gains achievable through diplomatic engagement.

Jamsheed K. Choksy is professor of Iranian and International studies and former director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Indiana University. He also is a member of the National Council on the Humanities at the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities. The views expressed are his own.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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29 Comments

The author makes great omission and statements of cause and effect with no logical links:

One important omission is the role of Israel and AIPAC in the US which have been hard at work towards sanctions and ultimately military attack, whilst sabotaging any prospect of dialogue.

Another important omission is Israel's possession of a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and its refusal to join the NPT. This is the central issue in discussing Iran's nuclear programme, particularly in the light of Mr Choksy's unsubstantiated remark that 'Iran appears" to be moving towards weapons capability.

Mr Chosky states "Granted, the Obama administration's hopes of swift dialogue with Tehran have been dashed by mullahs fearing regime change", that is, in the authors view Obama's US had the 'intention' and the 'hope' to engage in swift dialogue, but it was Iran's paranoia regarding US intentions that got in the way of these negotiations!!!

However, what the author fails to question is the result the Obama administration was 'hoping' to achieve from 'swift dialogue', and the context in which the negotiations became a non-starter, that is, enforcing harsher unilateral sanctions, pressuring other countries to sanction, and threatening crushing petroleum sanctions, whilst the military option has been obstinately left on the table!!! The author also fails to mention that the 'regime change' is not Iran's leaders' paranoia, it is rather the active operational policy of the US!! In fact it has been this treacherous policy that has been instrumental in the set-backs the Green Movement has suffered. Making the regime 'paranoid' regarding the nature of the oppositional democratic movement is also the active policy of the US, openly advocated by its think tanks such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy!!

I appreciate the author's support for dialogue and reaching some agreement regarding uranium exchange, but this can only be meaningful if it acknowledges the realities of the US and Israeli political interests in the region. Iran's nuclear programme and Iran's security and Iran's international rights should be assessed and acknowledged irrespective of the like and dislike of the regime, and its repressive or even non-representative nature.
"Granted, the Obama administration's hopes of swift dialogue with Tehran have been dashed by mullahs fearing regime change".

Anonymous / March 31, 2010 11:25 PM

The US if sincere in its intention should offer Iran a restart of its 'Atoms for Peace' programme as a carrot. This was the programmed in 1950s which first initiated Iran's nuclear programmed. Personally I think IRI is better off tapping into, with such a huge landmass and thousands of kilometres of ocean, into developing and producing energy from renewable sources which are much safer and would provide many more jobs. However strategically since it already had a programme and considering it is surrounded by nuclear armed states (either as occupying powers or in their own right - US/UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia and Pakistan) it should have a good nuclear programme with a break out capability. This is a strategic necessity in the neighbourhood and the world that it lives in. Although all evidence suggests that any intentions to actively develop such a capacity was, if at all there, abandoned a long while. A deal should and can be struck if the US and its Western allies decoupled their Iran policy from their 'support and bow to Israel at any cost'. In this they are being myopic and will undermine their long term strategic interest no matter what political changes might happen in Tehran.

rezvan / April 1, 2010 4:42 AM


I appreciate the contribution but I should point out an underlying premise in your writing that needs to be spelled out.

This assumption is exemplified by the statement "The United States and its allies in the P5+1 have little to lose by responding to Iran's latest offer". This is true only if the U.S. is genuinely interested in engaging Iran. From a purely Darwinian point of view, one could argue that the interest of the U.S. lies in weakening Iran -- softening the target if you will -- for the real regime change to come. In this context, the role of diplomacy is to create the charade behind which the real motivations could hide.

Frankly, from a purely cold and calculated point of view, I find it difficult to see the benefit of "real" engagement to the U.S. It would seem to me that for the U.S. to remain the superpower for as long as feasible, it should gain control over as much strategic energy and energy-related resources as possible. Given the proclivity of the current regime in Iran to think of itself as a regional superpower and its rather unbending attitude towards surrendering to the will of the U.S., one would have to conclude that the pragmatics of U.S. goals would dictate an unclenched fist that can land a deadly karate chop!

jay / April 1, 2010 9:30 AM

The United States and the Iranian mullahs have been deadly enemies since the 1950s, when the US overthrew Mossadegh (read the wonderful book "Countercoup" by Kermit Roosevelt). This murderous regime, wrapping itself in the swaddling clothes of divine right needs to be overthrown and the Iranian people granted their freedom. Hang this murderous so-called "Supreme Leader" and his henchmen as high as Haman. Then Iran can become part of the community of nations.

Greg / April 1, 2010 9:07 PM

Dear Jay and Anonymous,


Keen insights from both of you.


The unspoken premise of Dr. Choksy is the innate benevolence of American power projection abroad.


This is news to you and I, but an article of faith for Americans regardless of their ideological bent.


But we do not need to speculate, for his foundational beliefs are starkly revealed in an opinion piece recently published in the neocon Wall Street Journal. At the conclusion of his article, entitled "Iran's New World Order," dated March 1st, 2010, he opines:

___________________


"President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both said recently that the U.S. must lead the world. They are right. As the leader of the Free World, the U.S. can do much more than any other nation to extend prosperity and human freedom across the globe.

But words are insufficient. After constant demands, sporadic threats and inconsistent economic sanctions, the U.S. faces a profound leadership test on Iran. To keep its position of unparalleled influence, the U.S. must demonstrate that it can thwart both the Iranian regime's nuclear and world-wide ambitions."

___________________


Given this mindset, the article he has written in TehranBureau likely represents the most enlightened argument he can make for dialogue with Iran without exiting the clearly marked boundaries of American groupthink.

Ali from Tehran / April 1, 2010 11:13 PM

Netreba puno razmišljati i tražiti odgovor na pitanje zašto je amerika tako istrajna da kazni Iran! Postoje višestruki standardi kada je upitanju neka Muslimanska zemlja bez obzira kakvo imala društveno uređenje. Izrael na Muslimanskoj zemlji svakodnevno čini teror i zločin uz blagoslov amerike. Strah je uzrok u americi ali to je nemoguće spriječiti bilo kome pa ni dječku sa imenom Barak to je iluzija.Sačekajmo neko vrijeme!

Anonymous / April 1, 2010 11:49 PM

Dear Dr. Choksy,


In a piece pubished 12 days ago in Forbes.com, entitled, "A Nuclear Iran is Inevitable," you claim:

_____________________

"[Iran] has tested an advanced two-point coordinated nuclear warhead detonation design as deployed by the U.S. and Russia."

_____________________


Please provide clear attribution for this statement.


Did IAEA find evidence of this nefarious test during its campaign of inspections in Iran, or is it another one of the damning documents conveniently stored on the dodgy laptop of unknown provenance?


If the latter, then TB readers are certainly aware that the Americans have denied repeated entreaties by the IAEA for permission to share with Tehran the digital watermarks of the incriminating files hosted on this Mother of All Laptops. Examination of the digital trail of the documents would shed light on their authenticity.

Ali from Tehran / April 2, 2010 1:22 AM

The author fails to understand that the current stand off is indeed a demonstration that it is the US that cannot make a decision.
After western states made their offer in October of 2009, the slightest hesitaion by Iran saw them leave the negotiating table and on to the sanctions game. The west showed it had no room for negotiation. Iran's position had been very flexible. In fact, and contrary to this article, Iran announced from the very beginning that it accepted the general principle of EXCHANGE of nuclear matterial.

Why the inflexibility by Western states? mainly because the US government is completely beholden to the Israel lobby who wants no compromise. This is the only reason why Obama has left the negotiating table. This is why, as the article proclaims, the US has failed to respond to Iran's latest offer. Contrary to the author's assertions, it is not because the US is "distracted" by other issues. GIVE ME A BREAK!!

Pouya / April 2, 2010 10:10 AM

The Dictators ruling Iran never had and never will have good intentions in negotiating with the west over their nuclear program. Iranian Government for the past few years has used negotiations as stalling tactics to reach its goal of making nuclear weapons. This government thrives on crisis, as it is has shown time and time again in the past by its involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. The mullahs in Iran don’t understand diplomatic language, all they concerned about is to become a regional power and to gain leverage over their own people and oppress them even further. The only solution to this crisis is acute tough sanctions to cut this government’s life line, free Iranians from 30 years of Tyranny and dictatorship , and resolve this nuclear program issue once and for all.

Sia / April 2, 2010 5:38 PM

Sia,

I second that motion.

Niloofar / April 2, 2010 8:27 PM

Obama on Iran, 2 min. 50 sec.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwk8EKOTH7c&feature=player_embedded#

Anonymous / April 3, 2010 1:07 AM

As Glenn Greenwald and several other bloggers that are doing some real journalism have pointed out (see http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/03/31/iran and links therein), there is an ongoing, organized, and concerted efforts at all levels to sell a story to the public. While Glenn illustrates this with respect to journalists, other bloggers suggest that there is indirect evidence that intelligence agencies are funneling money through fronts to support websites, bloggers, and traffickers to post as much deception as possible regarding Iran.

As displeased as I may be with the current repression and restrictions in Iran, and in light of the clear evidence I see, I find it difficult to assign benevolence to the motives of the the US regime -- neither do I assign any benevolence to the Iranian regime.

I find it more sane to stay as rational and objective as possible -- shrill declaration does not contribute to fruitful results.

jay / April 3, 2010 7:09 PM

Greg, well said. I couldnt agree with you more.

Sia / April 4, 2010 6:26 AM

Niloofar
Thanks. Those of us with social conscience and clear Idea about Iranian illegitimate government’s essence and intentions should use every opportunity to divulge this regime’s Evil games and prevent sites such as this one to become a propaganda machine for them.

Sia / April 4, 2010 6:40 AM

Sia...I thirdly second that emotion...The Iranian (fake) government are not of the people...not even of God...so they cannot be allowed to continue with their nuclear weaponry madness. Ahmadinejad & his cohorts are getting closer to their nuclear weapon ideal by the day, bent on destroying Israel but their own people at the same time. Because they have no regard for he lives of thei people....they just want a legacy that they destroyed/annihilated Israel as they themselves choke on returned nuclear weapons & so will their people. All because of the "Satan's" in charge who want to preach hate & kill. Time the world woke up, (like today if you can)?

Jaker / April 4, 2010 6:28 PM

Just discovered another gem from Jamsheed Choksy, apparently on a mission to break Judith Miller's record in WMD- and terror-related spin.


Take a look at this learned article entitled, "Iran Targets U.S. via Latin America," dated January 20th, 2010:


http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2010/01/20/iran_targets_the_us_via_latin_america__97488.html


A few quotes and some observations:


QUOTE: [...] Iran's tentacles continue to enmesh Latin American nations. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: Nice choice of words. Love the cephalopodic imagery. Very scholarly. Poor, defenceless Latin American nations. Uncle Sam, please rescue them!

QUOTE: The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Corporation reported Iranian corporations are tunneling and excavating in Venezuela - perhaps like their activities around nuclear sites in Iran. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: Why the non-suggestive and anodyne word 'perhaps'? Drop the reticence and go straight for the jugular. Why else would anyone in his right mind tunnel or excavate, other than for WMD? As we all know, WMD was the original purpose of both the Suez canal and the Tehran Metro.


QUOTE: Recently, Tehran and Caracas have reached agreement to supply Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day - a move that could render ineffective U.S. attempts to embargo refined fuel imports by Iran. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: Someone should inform the good professor that 20,000 barrels of gasoline daily will not cover even 20% of Iran's import needs. So don't worry. Your beloved sanctions will still bite, and a new American century will dawn on humanity.


QUOTE: Flight manifests between Tehran, Damascus and Caracas remain undisclosed as well, with reports that illicit materials, destructive equipment, and dangerous individuals are moving between those destinations. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: Reports? No doubt from our prolific Israeli friends and their media claques in the U.S. Of course, none of those 'dangerous individuals' could possibly be as much of a global menace as as the man who appointed you to the National Humanities Council, Senor George W. Bush.


QUOTE: In return, Bolivia has publically supported Iran's nuclear program and may have provided some uranium as well. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: May have provided some uranium as well? Well, why not? I thought Ahmadinejad had a big bulge in his pocket as he was departing Bolivia. So that's what it was. Now, Bolivia is also in violation of its NPT commitments.


QUOTE: Moreover, like Bolivia and Venezuela, Brazil is a potential source of uranium for Iran and a possible future recipient of Iranian assistance in nuclear technology. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: Actually, in some aspects, Brazil's nuclear technology is more advanced than Iran's.


QUOTE: [...] a regime that is brutally repressive to its own citizens is unlikely to sow anything other than turmoil in the Western Hemisphere. ENDQUOTE


OBSERVATION: As opposed to the U.S., which has sowed only democracy, stability and prosperity in Latin America since the halcyon days of Teddy Roosevelt.

Ali from Tehran / April 6, 2010 1:43 PM

Well spoken Ali from Tehran. You are a brave man in dangerous terrain! at TB

rezvan / April 7, 2010 1:43 AM

Sia

I thought it is the US that is 6000 miles away from home waging wars and arming allies for 60 years. That precedes your beloved excuse of September 11th.
So who is using leverage, who is occupying foreign lands, who supports dictatorships in the region, who's got an armada in the Persian Gulf but is not a Gulf nation?
Why is it that US has interests in the region and somehow those interests trump all others, and how is it that Iran is supposed to have no interests in the very region it lives? Why should Iran not be involved in Iraq but the US can occupy it?

Pouya / April 10, 2010 10:13 AM

POUYA

For your information, I never condone U.S foreign policy and their insatiable appetite for power and dominance around the globe. But, this doesn’t legitimize Iranian government’s repressive and war mongering policy. The mullahs ruling Iran do not defend majority of Iranians interests, all they are concerned about is to stay in power and loot the country as much as they can even if that means pushing the country to the brink of war and destruction. If you are advocating Iran’s war mongering policy and are willing to fight in case Iran is attacked by the U.S and its allies, then by all means be my guest and sacrifice your life so that the Mullahs can have their government back on a silver plate and will be able to humiliate, torture, and kill Iranians for another 30 years. Enjoy the promises they give you in heaven in case you sacrifice your life for their survival.

Sia / April 11, 2010 11:00 PM

Sia,

The tell-tell sign of someone who has no logic backing their arguments is the fact that they always personalize their arguments-as you do.

Unfortunately for your arguments and the points you have raised, there are no evidence of Iran war mongering as Iran has not attacked a single nation in the past 30 years. War Mongering charges demand that the war mongerer actually initiate war.

It is also unfortunate for your argument that Iran's economy has gone through an exponential growth over the past 20 years. In the 1980's, Iran's economy, an oil economy like its neighbors, was ranked 4th behind the Saudi's, the Iraqis (as they were bankrolling the war with Kuwaiti money), and the Turks. Now, Iran is ranked first and the only Gulf economy to grow last year and this year according to the World Bank. This is despite the fact that Iran exports only 2.5 million barrels of oil as compared to Saudi's 9 million. How could that be, you ask? because Iran's economy has been diversified and no longer is as oil dependent at it was in the 70's.

Yes, the Mullah's are authoritarian and we all hope Iran can become a secular state someday soon. But we cannot get there by lying, by ignoring the truth, and by living in a world detached from reality. This is why "the mullahs" have been criticised for 30 years, yet Iran's influence has grown tremendously. This is why you make arguments that have no foundation on reality, and it is why the Greens died. Focusing on the truth, avoiding points that are hypocritical (like your arguments), and criticizing the regime on what truely is wrong with them is the path to definite change which will occur from within the nation and slowly.

Pouya / April 12, 2010 7:33 AM

Pouya,

In your own very words, "But we cannot get there by lying.", I thank you and totally agree.

I would like to study the source base of your financial information and data. I follow Iran's economy and I must admit it made me very happy to read your positive report.

This is what I am looking at based on IMF report.

The following is the list of Iran's export items. Petroleum 80% with chemical and petrochemical products, fruits, nuts, and carpets for the remaining 20%.
Unless you know of any other source of income, it is estimated as high as 87% of Iran's economy is oil based (including petro chemicals). Iran's economy enjoyed a period of growth when oil was selling at $150/barrel, far removed from today's $84 price at closing time which is still slightly less than the desired $90 breakeven point by Iran due to her rising high production costs and management inefficiencies.
Iran's economic growth of 7.8% in 2007 has been reduced to 0.5% (forecast, Source :IMF)in 2009. I am sure you will agree with me when I say it does not take a wild imagination to figure out the cause behind the growth decline.

"The 1979 Islamic revolution changed Iran’s modern political and economic history." IMF.

Iran boasts the world’s third largest petroleum reserves, following Saudi Arabia and Canada, and
the second largest gas reserves, after Russia. Iran also has the Middle East and North Africa
region’s second largest economy, after Saudi Arabia, and the second largest population, after
Egypt. Turkey's economy leads Saudi Arabia's today and they are both way ahead of Iran's. Please refer to the latest data from IMF.

I could go on and on, but at this stage, based on the 12+% rate of unemployment,30+% rate of inflation, total lack of foreign investments, a shrinking oil production, and the resultant budget defecit, Iran's future is very troubling indeed.

In conclusion,

The Barbaric Republic is not in a position to offer any hope to the Iranian people and must depart from the political scene of Iran for good. Iranian people truly deserve better than this archaic system of governance, an insult to humanity at large.

I would like to finish with the words from Pouya who wrote, "But we cannot get there by lying."

Thank you Pouya.

Niloofar / April 13, 2010 5:56 AM

Sia,

It is good to see that you changed your tune and stopped making things so personal.

On the other hand, IMF's US lead opinion is not the Wold Banks 2010 forcast of Iran's economy which has set its growth at 6.2%.

Your data of inflation rate is false and self made by reporters engaged in disimformation. Such data have been presented before together with claims that Iran's cash reserves have all but vanished. All were untrue and unfortunately you have used the same numbers. The data that Iran's inflation is at 30%, has come from "diplomats stationed in Iran." That is a favorite source for these reports. To be truthful, as you have suddenly found that spirit, no one but the Iranian government has the ability to comprehensively guage Iran's economy. The world bank runs its own report partly by varifying Iran's data. Indeed, as it turns out Iran has $80 billion in reserves, while the Gulf States are all (with the exception of Qatar) in heavy debt. The Saudi's according to its own government and as reported by Bloomberg news are $50 billion in debt. Iran's economy has been growing since 1997, and it preceded the oil price hicks. Again your sources are wrong when you say Iran needs "the 90 dollar breakeven price." This was part of the disimformation that was spread last year together with Iran's reseves being depleted. They also predicted Iran's economy would collapse as a consequence while "our allies" like Dubai would do fine. The complete opposite has turned out to be true-surely you agree. Iran's current budget of $310 billion dollar surpasses last year's budget despite the oil prices falling. Did you ask yourself why and how? Therefore the $90 "breakeven" prediction was false and it is unfortunate that you have used it as it undermines your sources and argument. Those sources have also claimed Iran is falling behind such countries as Dubai. All this has been part of a disimformation campaign you have accepted without question.

For your information, Iran exports under $1 billion of weapons; cars to its neighboring countries; $8 billion exports of products and services to Iraq alone (obviously non-oil); electicity to Turkey, Armenia, Iraq and Afganistan; $9 billion of petrochemical products in 2008 and $11 billion in 2009.

People forget why Iran needs a nuclear program which is another industry you have ignored. Yes, Iran's nuclear program is an industry which is university based and employs more that 10 thousand scientists and technicians. A far outcry to Pakistan's 2 scientists sitting in a basement trying to just make a bomb. People love to make an issue about Iran importing galsoline from Turkey but conveniently drop the part Iran exports electricity. People also love to ignore the reason why Iran imports gasoline, just as you do. That is because, contrary to your claims, Iran went through an unprecedented economic growth from mid-90's and its consumption outpaced its production. A gap that is being closed this year by various methods including increased production. It is that growth that makes it absolutely imparative for Iran to have alternative sources of energy. Iran's growth is real.

Can we ignore the educational growth Iran has experienced in the past 30 years. Women make 60% of all college students. This year the "concour" no longer excludes one from a higher degree. Who thought that possible 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago? Somebody built those classrooms, the universities, and brought the teachers. If they were against education, we would not have the president of sciences at Columbia University call Iran the top producer of best students in sciences in the world. That was on NEWSWEEK.

Having said all of that, I think where we disagree are these important facts, but I am certain we agree that the mullah's should go. Therefore we have differing conclusions. I for one believe it is best for the long term interests of Iran for the regime to change gradually as not to lose what has been built. I, unlike you, believe the glass is half full but could be far better. A regime that has educated so many but clings on religion has a finite life. And we see that in Iran today as women are pushing for more reforms. We saw all presidential candidate campaign for women vote. Something that was missed by the media. And as the election laws are being reformed to make an independent election commission. It won't be enough, and there will be more revolts in future and more change as a consequence. And so it will go on. Outside pressure only interrupts that process and gives armament to the Mullahs.

Thanks for your engagement on these topics.

Pouya / April 13, 2010 11:57 AM

Thank you Niloofar too, I should have said.

Pouya / April 13, 2010 11:59 AM

Pouya,

I learned that IMF is not a good source of information and most of its data is based on false sources. I must add that I have a congressional report on Iran before me dated June 2009 that is in agreement with IMF. However, that is fine and I thank you for your input. I quite agree with you about the status of Iranian women, their increasing level of education and their role in today's Iranian society. But one should not forget that over 30 years have passed by too and I hope to God a country such as ours ought to have expanded its horizon after 3 decades. I do not believe in foreign interference, but I am a firm believer in Iranian nationalism. I would appreciate it if you could point me to your economic sources.
Thank you.

Niloofar / April 13, 2010 10:32 PM

Niloofar

Congressional report? who believes US congress-not the United States itself. A congressional report with testimonial showed Iraqis through babies out of incubators. It was a lie. The testimonial was a show.

I pointed to my sources in my piece, google world bank, IranAffairs.com, Payvand.com, and let's not forget the one source that consistently criticised Ahmadinejad-Iran's central bank which pointed to runaway inflation and increased unemployment blaming the president himself. I know that will open me up to criticism but respectfully I stand by it.

Please, understand my point, that I don't simply point to data. What I look at is whether the statements made by a source is actually making sense. There are sources that claim Iran's economy is in real trouble, and others that point otherwise. I say when Iran's national budget actually grows then who was telling the truth. If Radio Free Europe reports Iran's reserves have all but vanished, and Boomberg news reports otherwise and world bank,the Iranian central bank confirm they have $80 billion in reserves. Should I ever believe anything that comes out of RFE? They can't lie on those reserves because the world bank has to verify it and Iran's trade and its credit worthiness depends on those statements. So is the case about IMF which is political entitie. The report that Iran's government would not be able to balance its budget if oil went under "$90" as you pointed out (actually the figure was $75 to 80) but Iran not only balances its budget but actually has a growth in government funds, what are we to conclude from those sources. I chose not to use them anymore. You choose to continue to trust them. That is a personal choice and it is where we differ.

I agree 30 years have passed and we can all hope for better and more secular days. I won't pray God for it, I think that's how we got here. But I accept one reality: Iran's secular nationalism is not strong enough to keep Iran's independence. A secular regime would have collapsed long ago.

Pouya / April 14, 2010 9:14 AM

"I chose not to use them anymore. You choose to continue to trust them."

Pouya, I never said I choose to trust them. Please refrain from assumptions. I have been reading your responses with interest and I will refer to your sources.


"A secular regime would have collapsed long ago."

This is where you and I differ considerably. We got here due to lack of political education of our fathers and their unbelievable naivety. We got here because they put their country and the future of their children in the hands of a backward mullah and voted blindly for an archaic system of governance.

pouya, I believe you are far smarter to make such an statement. Also, I believe our people have learned from their past mistakes.
Iran's sense of nationalism is very strong and it has been strong for thousands of years. It is our duty to add secularism to this powerful sense of nationalism. In fact, that is what Iranians are after.

It is for our generation to put it to practice in a country of laws where people have the ability to live in a free society in persue of happiness and their dreams and if they choose to, under God and without imposing it onto others.

In the 21st century that is not too much to ask, is it Pouya?

Niloofar / April 14, 2010 11:29 PM

hi everyone. i have spent most of this year in iran, and have been back here repeatedly. i do not know where the rest of you reside however there are a few facts worth mentioning. first the protests following the june elctions served the regime in that it again transformed itself to a new entity as it cleared up again many of its opponents who surfaced from june to shortly before it cleared up the protesters with its maximal use of force and the issuance of a death decree against protestors which it did use. the history of the regime is one of transformation, if you visit iran today and if you have not since the early days this is apparent.
second the people are challenging the supreme leader openly in discussions which is the new face in iran
thirdly there is significant attention to the growth of the economy. this is multifaceted and inspite of a government economic program which is still flawed.
the problem of the west in iran is not a dictatorial regime or an stolen election , they have no problem with afghanistan, saudi arabia, pakistan or egypt or in fact syria. the problem is the rise of persian management, an essential character of iranians when controlled by outsiders

kaveh / April 16, 2010 2:18 AM

"the problem is the rise of persian management, an essential character of iranians when controlled by outsiders."

Kaveh can you explain the rise of Persian management? To be honest, I do not understand the part about, "when controlled by outsiders", since the regime and its supporters declare themselves independent. In fact they take pride in it.

Niloofar / April 16, 2010 5:41 AM

Dear Dr. Chosky,

"In the meantime, Iran appears to progress steadily toward nuclear weapons breakout capability. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates Iran possesses sufficient low-enriched uranium (LEU), over two metric tons, for purification into a single weapons-grade warhead of 20-25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium."

Over how long and in which facility? How many centrifuges does it take? How many do they have? Where? Are they ready now?

After the enrichment, what other hurdles do they have to overcome? Have they proven capable of doing anything remotely explosive after they have gotten to the 25 Kg weapons grade warhead?

Would they need to test a few devices before putting their best foot forward? What if the first one is a dud? would they get their versers handed to them if they only make one and it is a dud?

It would be nice to complete the IAEA statement or provide a clear link so that your readers can trust the rest of the article, from that point on.

As and [Opinion] piece this is truly great. But as an [Analysis}, which seems to be, it is a dud.

Anonymous / April 19, 2010 11:15 PM